Fox Sports Production Head Brad Zager Discusses Ginormous South Beach Super Bowl Set

Fox Sports Super Bowl set
Fox Sports Super Bowl set /

MIAMI, FL - You can probably tell if you're watching FS1 shows on TV and definitely tell if you're in Miami that the Fox Sports Super Bowl set in South Beach is indescribably ginormous -- it encompasses nine acres. We caught up with Brad Zager who is EVP/Head of Production & Operations at Fox Sports to discuss the logistics of when they conceived the plan, how they executed it, sketches that fell by the wayside, and why they felt this was a massive opportunity to "plant the flag" for the whole Fox organization:

Ryan Glasspiegel: What was the process, first of all, of clearing all that space with the city of Miami?

Brad Zager: Before we looked at the space, we had the original meeting about a year ago. It was alright, what are we trying to accomplish at the Super Bowl in Miami? The number one thing was embracing Miami, and making sure that we brought that Miami feel to Fox Sports, and didn't just try to jam something that didn't fit into the way people think about Miami as far as look and feel. We started with a couple sketches, and we kind of said in the room that we wanted a Miami hotel, beachy vibe. That was the stuff that was thrown out there of what we were trying to accomplish.

Gary Hartley, our creative director, ran with that and came up with a couple original sketches. From there we fine-tuned non-stop. About a month later, we had a good idea of the amount of sets, space, location that we were trying to accomplish. Mike Davies and Rod Conti in our operations group basically just ran with it from there. They're the ones that dealt with the city, dealt with coming down here multiple times, and figured out that space.

Originally, we couldn't get that space. We were going to have to settle for some land more north up the beach. We just never stopped. Even once that was done we kept fighting for that iconic shot that we think we have of Miami's Ocean Drive. Our planning kept going into that area, and about a month later -- which is six months ago now -- we got that spot we're in today.

It was really fine-tuning from there. I said this to someone at Fox the other day. I should really go back and look at the evolution of the sets. At one point, it had ladders and bridges across sets. Second stories and third stories. We went through so many iterations of this. What it really boiled down to is what are we trying to accomplish and are set up for Super Bowl Sunday -- to have it look big, and to have it feel like not just any other game or day.

That was the whole process, but I can't give enough credit to Davies, Conti, and Hartley, who basically lived and breathed this for a whole year while also handling planning for the World Cup, World Series, NFL regular season, the US Open, and everything else on the air.

RG: As far as the construction goes, this couldn't have gotten built in a week. How long did this all take?

BZ: One person from Fox will have been down here for 39 straight days when he goes back home from the Super Bowl. The week of January 6th is when they started covering the sand to begin the build.

RG: This had to have cost a ton of money. I don't expect you to tell me how much it cost, but how do you go through the calculations of justifying it?

BZ: We start with managing a budget for a major event. We go through, we know what our budget is, and we figure out how much we've got to work with. For me, figuring out the Super Bowl started with the game. Making sure that we're 100 percent covered when the viewers are watching the game. That we have every angle covered. We wall that area off because that's always the most important priority on Sunday. And then we just kind of work backwards.

Bill Richards who produces our pregame show starting in New York did the multiple tops. He wanted to embrace in Miami. We knew we wanted to do something in South Beach. And then you look at the daily studio shows and the amount of volume -- you start to get up over 100 hours of programming down here. And then you look at all the other stuff for our company -- with digital and Caffeine and Fox entertainment and everybody else.

All of a sudden, you start realizing that this event is bigger than just Sunday. It's not just a Fox Sports event -- it's a huge event for our whole company and we want to make sure that this is the event that you plant your flag in the sand and you let everybody know whose Super Bowl it is.

RG: You guys have had Super Bowls before, but you've never had a set like this one. I went to the one you guys had in Houston and it wasn't anything like this in terms of its ginormousness.

BZ: Yeah, so I think what happened was in the past it was based on space. On this one, once we got the okay for the beach, then it was just limited by our imaginations. We definitely looked at this as the first year of the culmination of our new company at Fox [after the assets sale to Disney], and the number of hours. If you look from New York (in 2014) to Houston (in 2017) to now, and the amount of studio shows we're doing, it's just night and day. We really felt that this was the first one to step up that scale because we had the opportunity to based on the location of this Super Bowl.